| DistroWatch Weekly
|DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 143, 20 March 2006
Welcome to this year's 12th issue of DistroWatch Weekly. It's that time of the year when development activity in the open source software world is about to reach its peak - the release of GNOME 2.14 last week will be followed by Fedora Core 5 later today, with SUSE 10.1 coming out next month. At the same time, Ubuntu's Dapper Drake has received extra 6 weeks to get more polish, while Mandriva's new "One" product has been overshadowed by news about the sudden involuntary departure of the distribution's founder. Also in this issue: Debian developers on explaining their project to non-geeks, update on the custom DVD booting a number of distributions, and a quick look at the new KNOPPIX 5.0. Happy reading!
Listen to the Podcast edition of this week's DistroWatch Weekly in ogg (5.22MB) or mp3 (6.26MB) format (courtesy of Shawn Milo).
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Opinion: Mandriva on the rocks
Despite the release of a new Mandriva edition last week, it was the company -- rather than the new product -- that stole the spotlight in the media. In a never-ending series of blunders that have relegated the best desktop Linux distribution on the market to a mediocre one over the last few years, the decision makers at Mandriva have asked Gaël Duval (pictured on the right) to leave the company! Yes, the same Gaël Duval who single-handedly created Mandrake Linux back in 1998. The same Gaël Duval who had a proven track record of understanding desktop Linux better than anyone else at the time. The same Gaël Duval who probably contributed more than anyone else to increased adoption of Linux at a time when very few distributions thought about usability of Linux on the desktop. Now, last week, Gaël Duval was deemed a burden to the company he helped to jump-start!
It was a telling sign of Mandriva's attitude towards their user community that we had to learn about such an important event in an obscure IRC channel or a private web log, rather than directly from the horse's mouth. It was only when a major news site picked up the story that the company found itself in an embarrassing position of having to provide an explanation. Although Gaël Duval disagreed on a few minor points, the message given by Mandriva's CEO was clear: Mandriva as a company is once again in a bad financial shape and needs to find ways to cut expenses. With the acquisition of Conectiva and Lycoris in 2005, the ill-contrived spending spree of the past year has come back to haunt the company's investors. Fresh doubts about the viability of its business model have re-surfaced.
Is this the end of Mandriva as a company? No, not just yet. Is this the end of a distribution that helped so many users (including your DistroWatch maintainer) to jump on the Linux bandwagon back in the late nineties? Sadly, yes. As one forum reader put it so bluntly, it is frightening to realise that in their quest to increase the value of their investments, Mandriva's desperate shareholders have made so many absurd decisions that instead of building a prosperous business entity they will bring about its downfall!
Right now, the only thing that can save Mandriva from certain death is return to its roots - by building a distribution for home users, not suits. Although following Red Hat's business model might sound like a perfect way to ensure future financial prosperity, the sad reality is that Mandriva will have hard time competing with the likes of Red Hat and Novell. Instead, the company should close its rapidly diminishing Club infrastructure, return to a 6-month release cycle, and give away the base distribution with no delays and no strings attached. With the dramatically increasing interest in Linux that we have been witnessing over the past 6 months, it shouldn't take too long before it would generate solid and sustainable revenue from private and government contracts, as well as by selling support and custom solutions.
For Mandriva to survive, it needs to stop laying off its best employees and start implementing a radical overhaul of its business strategy. It should strive to become a leader in one area, not a follower in another - no matter how lucrative it might seem to certain uninformed investors. Unfortunately, as its most recent action demonstrates, Mandriva might have already passed the point of no return....
* * * * *
Miscellaneous news: polishing Dapper Drake, tasting bubbly Bordeaux, explaining Debian
The controversial decision of the Ubuntu developers to postpone the final release of Dapper Drake by six weeks has met with mixed reactions. Although the decision-making process was democratic and the reasons for the proposed delay sound, the decision has its critics. Up to this point, Ubuntu Linux was about the most trustworthy Linux distribution on the market, with the reliable 6-month release cycle as one of its stated goals. Suddenly, a big part of this trust is gone and users have every reason to question the validity of Ubuntu's other promises. Besides, six weeks sounds like a long time to reach that ever elusive goal called "polish". The delay will also put more pressure on the developers - with so much extra time, the expectations will rise considerably. But let's not judge the product too early. If the extra six weeks turn Dapper Drake into the most amazing Linux distribution ever built, then be it!
In the meantime, the eagerly awaited Fedora Core 5, the distribution's first release in over 9 months, should provide enough features, software and entertainment for every Linux user to give the venerable operating system a serious test drive. Although Fedora's revamped installer and some of the custom utilities feel somewhat dumbed down, the new release promises to be a solid operating system. Code named "Bordeaux", the new Fedora will be formally announced on Monday, but as many have already discovered, the ISO images have started leaking from some of the distribution's mirrors as early as Friday last week. If you find yourself bored while downloading the product, here are a few interesting links to check out: Fedora Core 5 sneak preview, Stanton Finley's installation notes, and Fedora 5 screencast. One final note: users of proprietary NVIDIA and ATI video drivers should read this important message before installing or upgrading.
How do you promote Debian at parties? Joshua Kwan, one of the distribution's developers happened to wear a Debian T-shirt at a party and soon found himself struggling to explain the purpose of the strange looking spiral to non-geek public. After describing the awkward situation on a web log, several Debian developers offered an advice on how to deal with the situation:
Any similar experiences among the readers of DistroWatch? How would you explain Linux to casual acquaintance? Please comment below.
- Martin Krafft: "Rule number one: stay away from opinions, comparisons, and technical details (at least in the beginning). Give them humanly comprehensible facts and do not mention Windows or OS X unless asked."
- Erich Schubert: "You need to have what is called an 'elevator pitch'. That is a short preso you could give while going up a few floors with an elevator on your way to a meeting, back, at a conference, at a party..."
- Wouter Verhelst: "And about that Linux bit, I wouldn't worry too much. If the people you're talking to are business people, and they've never heard of Linux before, just get yourself a strange look on your face, and say something like you've never heard of Linux before?!?"
Finally, a quick update on the Spanish article explaining the steps to create a custom DVD that can boot a number of live Linux distributions. Due to overwhelming demand, the author has spent time to update the script and to translate the article into English. Those of you who found it difficult to follow the original story can now access the English version of the updated article on this page.
|First look at KNOPPIX 5.0
First look at KNOPPIX 5.0
Those readers who recall the early days of KNOPPIX will also remember the high frequency with which new releases of the popular live CD used to appear on public mirrors - sometimes as much as three times a week! Although those excitingly hyperactive days are gone for good, having a more sedate release schedule has its benefits too. Probably the chief one among them is that awesome feeling of experiencing unexpected dramatic improvements. If you are still using KNOPPIX 4.0.x, then prepare yourself for a major update when version 5.0 finally hits the public mirrors in the next few weeks. It's good; in fact, it's probably the best KNOPPIX release to-date.
As has become tradition over the last few years, new KNOPPIX versions are first presented during major computing exhibitions, such as CeBIT or LinuxTag before they are updated and released to public mirrors. If you can't wait any longer, a hacked English edition of the new 3.88 GB KNOPPIX 5.0 live DVD can be downloaded via BitTorrent from LinuxTracker.org. This is the release I used to boot up a Pentium 4 computer to take an early look at the world's most popular live DVD.
Your first impressions are likely to be excellent. The KNOPPIX 5.0 DVD boots noticeably faster than version 4.0.2 (3 minutes and 20 seconds to full KDE on this test machine), the hardware detection is the usual perfection, and the new desktop theme looks a lot more professional than anything we have seen from KNOPPIX so far. Under the hood, there are many more improvements. The live DVD sports the latest KDE 3.5.1 running on top of kernel 2.6.15. Several other "firsts" will please a large number of users - KNOPPIX 5.0 is the distribution's first release that uses X.Org (version 6.9.0) instead of XFree86, provides udev for mounting storage devices, and includes Java and Java-based Jakarta Tomcat and the Eclipse SDK. Mono is also included for the first time, although disappointingly Mono-based Beagle, F-Spot and Tomboy have failed to make the cut. Besides the default KDE, users can also boot into GNOME 2.12, XFce 4.2.3, Fluxbox 0.9.14, WindowMaker 0.92.0, IceWM 1.2.25 and several other window managers.
The new KNOPPIX also ships with an improved hard disk installation program which is now able to upgrade a previous installation. Like version 4.0, the DVD includes a number of KNOPPIX-related electronic books in both English and German, such as the excellent Knowing Knoppix. Somewhat surprisingly, it also provides several open source applications for Windows, e.g. Firefox, Thunderbird and OpenOffice.org. And speaking of Windows, transparent read/write access to partitions formatted with the NTFS file system is now a standard feature.
Despite my mostly positive impressions, a few negative points of KNOPPIX 5.0 need to mentioned too. The 'knoppix-installer' program is nowhere to be found in the menus, so users wishing to install the new KNOPPIX to their hard disks will have to read the changelog or resort to guesswork. Similarly, the KNOPPIX and KANOTIX menu entries are available in KDE only, making it hard to access all the great custom utilities from other desktops. If you do switch to a non-KDE desktop, it will become immediately obvious that no effort has been expended to synchronise the menus, wallpaper, font sizes, etc. with those on KDE. To get the best experience out of KNOPPIX you really should use KDE, otherwise you might be disappointed.
Overall, KNOPPIX 5.0 is a very good release with a huge number of up-to-date applications, improved speed and a pleasant desktop theme. I still prefer the faster and more polished live CD edition, but many users will no doubt be attracted by the versatility and extra software on the live DVD.
For more information about the project please visit the distribution's web site at Knoppix.com.
KNOPPIX 5.0 live DVD provides excellent allround improvements over the previous release
(full image size: 556kB, resolution: 1280x1024 pixels)
|Released Last Week
A new major version of the KNOPPIX/KANOTIX-based PAIPIX Linux live DVD has been released: "After a major restructuring PAIPIX version 5 is now available for download both for the 32-bit and AMD 64-bit architectures. A single image is now used for all supported languages. For hard disk installation, PAIPIX is now using the KANOTIX facility that renders the installed system pure Debian and therefore much more robust to upgrades. There was a lot of work over a long time that was put into this major restructuring that now includes OpenOffice.org 2.0.1, KDE 3.5.1, Apache 2, PHP 5, MySQL 5, PostgreSQL 8.1 and X.Org 6.8." The release announcement.
Source Mage GNU/Linux 0.9.6
Source Mage GNU/Linux 0.9.6 for i486 and PowerPC processors has been released: "'Guidance' ISO Release 0.9.6 stable PPC and x86. Our first stable PPC ISO release in a very long time. The PPC installer now has all the nice features that the x86 installer has. Main new features: a 'dependency' scheme that will make sure you don't accidentally skip a vital step or do things in the wrong order - you can still override dependencies if you really know what you're doing; spells get installed in the background while you are busy selecting options; software RAID support via mdadm." Read the release announcement for further details.
Foresight Linux 0.9.4
The first distribution release shipping with the hot-off-the-press GNOME 2.14 is Foresight Linux 0.9.4: "I am very pleased to announce the availability of Foresight Desktop Linux 0.9.4 with GNOME 2.14. This release includes a number of updates: GNOME 2.14; cleaner and shinier 'Clearlooks' theme; Tango desktop icons; kernel 220.127.116.11; Avahi (aka Rendezvous, Bonjour and sometimes Zeroconf); latest DBUS and HAL; GNOME Power Manager; Banshee, F-Spot, Beagle, Tomboy and more... Foresight Desktop Linux 0.9.4 is available as both CD and DVD ISOs, and -- drum roll please -- VMware player and QEMU images thanks to rBuilder!" Read the release announcement for more information.
A new major version of Skolelinux, a distribution also known as DebianEdu, has been released: "After twenty-one months of development, Skolelinux has released a new version. Skolelinux, the Debian-edu project's Custom Debian Distribution, is installed in hundreds of schools in Norway, Germany, and other countries. Many municipalities use Skolelinux across all of their schools; such centralized operation offers low maintenance and operational costs. Skolelinux is free and open source software, and for those schools that need assistance, many commercial organizations offer maintenance and support solutions." Read the release announcement for more information.
Mandriva One 2006
The inaugural release of Mandriva One, a new live CD that aims to simplify the installation of the Mandriva Linux operating system to a hard disk directly from the live CD, has been released: "An operating system is generally available as a live CD or a set of installation CDs, but not both on the same disc. Mandriva One differs in offering an all-in-one CD based on Mandriva Linux 2006. It's a great way for all users to save space and time. This high quality Linux distribution not only includes live and install functionality but also a selection of the best free software available - and selected non-free applications and drivers are available on a special edition for Mandriva Club members." See the full release announcement and press release for additional details.
Nonux has been updated to version 2.3. The new release brings several major updates, including new versions of the Linux kernel (18.104.22.168), GNOME (2.12.3), OpenOffice.org (2.0.2) and Firefox (22.214.171.124). Also, the distribution's hard disk installation program has seen considerable speed improvements. Please visit the Nonux news page (in Dutch) to read the complete release announcement.
Lineox Enterprise Linux 4.076 and 3.140
Following the recent updated releases of Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) 3 and 4, new versions of Lineox Enterprise Linux, a distribution rebuilt from source RPM packages for RHEL, are also available: "Always Current Lineox Enterprise Linux 3.140 with Update 7 available. In the 3.140 version the installation environment is rebuilt, so it offers better hardware support during the installation. Note however that booting from a floppy is no longer supported in x86 version. The x86_64 version has never had floppy boot support. New features introduced by this update include: improved support for NUMA architectures, addition of OpenIPMI userspace tools...." Please see the two release announcements (Lineox 4.076, Lineox 3.140).
* * * * *
Development and unannounced releases
|Upcoming Releases and Announcements
Summary of expected upcoming releases
Linux Format Issue 78|
The April 2006 issue of Linux Format should now be available from your book store or news agent. As usual, the DistroWatch section on pages 34 and 35 has a mixture of articles on the latest distributions, starting with an opinion piece arguing the importance of Slackware Linux. Despite some voices in the community claiming that the advent of modern, user-friendly Linux operating systems has rendered the oldest surviving distribution obsolete, Slackware is still one of the most reliable and cleanest distributions available today. This is followed by an article describing some of the new features in Fedora Core 5, a brief review of VectorLinux 5.1 "SOHO", and a quick look at EnGarde Secure Linux 3, one of the friendliest server-oriented Linux distributions with excellent web-based administration tools. The section concludes with an interesting way of measuring the size of distributions - by ranking them according to the number of packages they ship. No prices for guessing which is the biggest of them all!
Elsewhere in the magazine, the main cover feature is dedicated to 8 pages of digital photography, including a basic set-up for beginners, photo manipulation techniques in GIMP, and printing and sharing of photographs. Although Linux Format is predominantly a Linux publication, the current issue branches out to cover another free operating system - the lightning-fast and easy-to-use Syllable. As always, don't miss the review section, which tests and rates a late beta release of SUSE Linux 10.1, Yellow Dog Linux 4.1, Gentoo Linux 2006.0, and a number of applications and games. There is also an excellent round-up of DVD players resulting in a surprise winner, while the highly informative interview section will be most appreciated by the fans of Mono, as Edd Dumbill and Niel Bornstein share their passion for the open source port of Microsoft's .NET framework.
Once again, the tutorial section is heavily focused on budding graphics designers. If you are one of them, you will have a chance to create a glass reflection in the GIMP, learn a few special text manipulation techniques in Inkscape, and get to grips with surface modelling in Realsoft 3D. Linux beginners will appreciate the 4-page story of managing email in Evolution, while those who enjoy working on the command line will find it informative to read about advanced Bash tricks using alias, less, top, grep, and find. Web masters will learn a few SQL optimisation techniques with PHP.
Whatever you do, don't miss the latest edition of the best Linux magazine on the market!
* * * * *
New distributions added to the waiting list
- Olive. Olive is an independently developed minimalist live CD featuring the Enlightenment window manager.
* * * * *
DistroWatch database summary
That's all for today. The next issue of DistroWatch Weekly will be published on Monday, 27 March 2006. See you then :-)
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